Research A Company Before Your Job Interview
You’ve probably read plenty of advice telling you to research a company before you interview. And you’ve been told that all kinds of bad things will happen if you don’t.
It’s actually true.
You’re very unlikely to receive a job offer if you seem unprepared or disinterested, and that’s the signal you’re sending if you walk in without researching them first.
How much research do you need to do though?
It’s faster and easier than it sounds if you follow a certain method!
Instead of wasting time and flooding your brain with a variety of facts about the company, you’re going to cover the very basics and then choose one specialized area to study further. That’s it.
Then you can use this to deliver much better answers when the interviewer asks what you know about their company and other interview questions.
Step 1: Top-Level Research
We’re going to start by getting a basic understanding of the company. This will help you feel comfortable and avoid mistakes early in the interview.
You can do your research via the company’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
Here are the areas you should make sure you understand:
- What do they sell and how do they make money?
- Who is their target customer?
- Approximately how many employees do they have?
- How long have they been in business? (bonus points if you learn about how the company got its start or how it was founded)
Once you have an understanding of their business, you’re ready for the next step which is really going to set you apart in the interview.
Step 2: Research a Specific Topic
In this second step, you are going to pick one area about the company that interests you, and learn about their involvement in it.
This will take around 10-15 minutes of research.
Try to pick something you’re genuinely interested in. Why did you choose to apply at this company to begin with? There must be something you liked about the job.
If nothing comes to mind, browse the company’s website, the job description, and other online information until you see something that catches your eye.
What types of topics can you pick? Here are a few general ideas to help you brainstorm:
Option A: Pick something related to the company’s mission
Does the product or service save lives, improve safety, help people, or aid the community in any way?
Example: A technology company that’s building software to help hospitals do a better job of storing and analyzing medical records so they can provide better treatment to patients.
If that interests you, learn all about it and find out the specifics.
Healthcare is just one example. Maybe your future employer is involved in green energy, personal safety, public access to information, or any number of other issues.
All of those would work, and you only need one!
Option B: A specific skill or job duty
Is the group you’re looking to join involved in a specific area of work that excites you? Find out everything you can about what they’ve done in the past and what direction they’re heading in with this area.
Example: You’re a Financial Analyst and you’re especially interested in mergers and acquisitions. You read that the company you’re interviewing with brokered some of the biggest deals of the last year in the city you’re in.
You’d want to find out the specifics behind some of the biggest deals they completed. Dollar values, companies involved, and who on their team guided the efforts?
A great place to start is Google. Put the company name plus the term “Press Release”, or plus “News”.
Many larger companies have a Press Release section on their own website as well. If not, you can check the company blog for news and updates.
These articles often contain the updates that the company feels is most important. So that’s a tipoff that it might be a good topic to learn more about.
The two scenarios above aren’t your only options; they’re just two examples to get you started.
Putting the Pieces Together
Once you’ve spent 15-20 minutes reading about the company’s involvement in the area you chose, you’re ready to plan your interview strategy.
You don’t want to leave it up to chance that you’ll get to mention it; you want to drive the conversation in that direction.
When the hiring manager asks what you know about their company, cover one or two of the basics you studied (i.e. – they were founded in 1997 with the goal of providing a safer baby stroller to new mothers), but then quickly jump into the area you chose to research further.
Get specific. Describe the research you did, and highlight some of the more interesting pieces you found. Try to sound excited as you describe the info you uncovered.
The hiring manger will be very impressed with your ability to discuss the topic in such detail. The implication is that if you know that much about one narrow topic, you clearly put a lot of thought and effort into preparation.
Somebody who spent equal time studying 10 different topics will not seem as prepared and will not be able to have a back-and-forth conversation with the hiring manager at the same level you can.
This will set you apart, build a connection between you and the interviewer, and increase your odds of walking out with an offer.